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Why the Cardinals could afford Tulowitzki and Ellsbury

Note: This is a guest column from blingboy and as such, does not necessarily reflect my opinion. But hey, we’re open-minded around here!

By blingboy

Fangraphs writer Wendy Thurm brought together information from several sources in an article that looks at Major League Baseball teams’ 2014 salary obligations as well as the effect of the new MLB television deals on team revenue.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 obligation is said to be $76 million.  This includes projected arbitration salaries as follows:

That comes to $15-$16 million, which is actually not an obligation as of now.  That would mean around $60 million plus quite a few pre-arbitration, near minimum wage salaries are what is written in ink for 2014.

In the same Fangraphs article, the estimated per team revenue increase from 2013 to 2014 from the new MLB television contracts with ESPN, FOX and TBS is put at $25 million.

Nobody knows how much of that extra $25 million Bill DeWitt might want to spend on player salaries, but he could spend it all.  That is an option.  So it is possible for the opening day payroll to be $25 million higher than it was in 2013, which would come to $141 million.

Taking from that figure the $60 million actually committed for 2014 leaves Mr. Dewitt and general manager John Mozeliak with $81 million in salary that could potentially be added.  If we use an overly generous round number, $10 million, for the pre-arb minimum wage guys, that still leaves $70+ million.

So yes, Bill could give Mo the green light to call agent Scott Boras about centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and take on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s contract, and he’d still have room to hire Albert Pujols back without taking a hit in his wallet.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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15 Responses to “Why the Cardinals could afford Tulowitzki and Ellsbury”

  1. blingboy says:

    Left unsaid is that if the Cardinals do not offer arb to any of the above, they could pick up Tolo’s $16M and, say $20M (generous) for Ellsbury and be at $96M, plus $10M for pre-arb guys. That is $106M, which is $10M less than last year’s opening day payroll.

    The benefit of a horde of capable pre-arb guys is that for a payroll less than last year’s, the Cardinals could be looking at this on opening day:

    Ellsbury CF
    Carpenter 3B
    Tulowitski SS
    Craig RF
    Holliday LF
    Adams 1B
    Molina C
    Wong 2B

    And at by next October:

    Ellsbury CF
    Carpenter 3B
    Tulowitski SS
    Craig 1B
    Holliday LF
    Taveras RF
    Molina C
    Wong 2B

    No more range issue, vastly superior lineup. And there is still payroll room to address the bat off the bench.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It appears you are trading only pitchers for Tulo. You may need your “payroll room” to plug holes created there.

      Non-tendering all the arb-eligible guys would be a bad move, in my opinion. You still need a bench. It would be nice to have more experience there. A couple would definitely have trade value.

      In addition to the money, the signing of Ellsbury would cost the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick. With the shoe on the other foot (and under the old rules), the Cards got the picks used for both Wacha and Piscotty for Pujols’ departure.

      • blingboy says:

        Agreed on all points.

        There is still $10M left, just to get to last year’s number, with which those points can be addressed. That still leaves BDW with the full $25M additional TV money in his pocket.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          BB, there are so many issues in this that who can say…………… Let the appearance of the Andrus contract justify all of their other penny pinches for a few years……….get some cash up front to offset Andrus contract that would come from adding prospects to the trade…………… it appears that’s whats happening……. Brian sees this……. They will need to train some vets to wet nurse this roster for a few years…………..Bill DeWitt pulled it off……he is a legend in Base Ball circles.

          • blingboy says:

            It won’t be Andrus, Westy. 100% sure about that. He has already peaked defensively and declined somewhat this year.

            I am no expert in interpreting defensive stats, but I can see that Andrus’s 2013 metrics would be a step backwards from Kozma. Mo will avoid going backwards in range anywhere on the field and most especially at such a key defensive position. And Mo will not lock himself into a declining shortstop for that long.

            Acquiring Andrus is exactly the kind of thing other teams do and the Cardinals don’t.

            • crdswmn says:

              “I am no expert in interpreting defensive stats”.

              Because you refuse to use them as they were intended to be used. I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that defensive metrics like UZR tell you nothing in single season increments, but you refuse to accept that. Comparing Andrus’ 2013 UZR to Pete Kozma’s 2013 UZR is worthless.

              Andrus is the same age as Kozma (actually 4 months younger) and a better defensive shortstop.

              • blingboy says:

                I understand the point. One downward year does not mean the down slope has set in, I agree, but it means that onset of it is more likely than if the recent year had been up. In any event, Mo is not going to take on that contract.

                • crdswmn says:

                  Not necessarily. Defensive metrics can go down one year and right back up the next. There are many factors that can cause a temporary downturn in defense. Nagging injuries, changes in pitching staff, park factors, even bad luck. You cannot make such broad assumptions on one lower year.

                  I am not advocating trading for Andrus. I am just saying that you can’t draw conclusions about a player’s defense from one season of defensive metrics.

            • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

              Selig gave them warning about Cruz. They did that extension in May for no special reasonwith Andrus…..Profar sitting right there….. This has little to do with baseball. Bill have to use that payroll money up someway. ……..Selig/Fox want parity…………that was a Scott Boras don’t F with me contract manipulation……..only if he was traded……..Gordon and the Cards mouth pieces are keeping in the dialogue for a reason……..Its not about baseball…….it could already be done.

              • blingboy says:

                The Andrus contract made no sense because of both Profar and Kinsler, who has a pretty much untradeable contract. Meanwhile, Profar’s value has nowhere to go but down as he sits around.

                Somebody may bail them out but I hope it is not us.

  2. Bw52 says:

    My question is what the trade cost would be for Tulowitzki.I don`t want to see the pitching staff or the team gutted in order to obtain Tulo.What`s the point of obtaining offense and improving the defense if you don`t have anybody to get anybody out.AW,Wacha,Miller and CMart have to be untouchable.Kelly and Lynn and what else could get Tulo?Siegrist,Rosenthal untouchable.I would like to see Cards hold on to Maness if possible.What else would Rockies want? Adams 1B ?Like I said no point in ripping the roster apart for Tulo.Make a offer Lynn,Kelly,Freeman and Salas for Tulo.

    • blingboy says:

      The Rockies have some incentive to move him. If they don’t, they will be paying that contract over a period when they have little to no chance of winning anything. The Rockies also have very limited ability to obtain quality pitching in the FA market, as it would take enormous dollars to get a quality pitcher to pitch in Denver. So Mo’s ability to offer what they cannot otherwise get is a huge factor.

      The contract itself limits the number of teams that will be competing for him.

      As to gutting the roster, I don’t think so. In addition to names you mention there are additional pitchers, Garcia, Gast, Lyons, Stoppelman, Motte, Gonzales, Kaminsky, Reyes.

      Among position players there are possibilities such as Adams, Freese, Jay, Piscotty, Ramsey, G Garcia, etc.

      The Rockies could take in an incredible haul without gutting the Cards lineup.

  3. crdswmn says:

    Paying a guy 20 M a year who is almost sure to never give you a full season is just dumb. Just say no to Tulo.

    I like Ellsbury but not well enough to give up a draft pick for him.

  4. Bw52 says:

    I think Cards end up with Erick Aybar from Angels.Angels need SP (cheap SP) and want to cut some payroll.So Aybar for Lynn,Kozma and mid-level prospect.Angels save close to 8 million and Cards get a solid SS for 3 years at affordable price 8.5 yearly.Plus Aybar not older guy.

  5. blingboy says:

    Anyway, the point of the article wasn’t that I think the Cards will get Tulo and Ellsbury, or even that they should, but rather, that they could, and without significant increase in payroll over 2013.

    That fact is incredible, but true.

    The reason being that the ‘horde’ of capable pre-arb guys churned out by the system, and the paucity of big contracts hanging over their heads, means that there is both enormous payroll room and abundant trade bait.

    The bottom line is that virtually nothing is out of the question.

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